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`Airports privatisation awaiting Cabinet nod'

Our Bureau

KOCHI, Sept. 15

THE Civil Aviation Ministry is considering partial privatisation of the major metro airports in the country once the Cabinet clears a revised proposal to this effect, Mr K. Roy Paul, Civil Aviation Secretary, has said.

He said that almost all the activities in airports except air traffic control and security of the airports of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai would be privatised.

Private investment would be welcomed in all other fields such as terminal management, parking and duty-free shop management, he said while briefing mediapersons here.

Mr Paul, who was here in connection with the one-day seminar on passenger/cargo handling facilitation organised by Air India as part of reaching out to Kerala, said that the Ministry had decided to hand over the major activities of the airports to private investors having adequate international expertise in managing airports.

A Cabinet decision to this effect was taken some time ago.

However, the proposal is being revised after addressing some legal issues. Private investments in minor airports in the country including Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram would also be welcomed, he added.

Regarding further investments in the Cochin International Airport Ltd at Nedumbassery, the Civil Aviation Secretary disclosed that the Airport Authority of India (AAI) would take equity stake in CIAL by bringing in close to Rs 52 crore or above.

The Chairman of the CIAL Board, Mr A.K. Antony, the Kerala Chief Minister, had written to the Civil Aviation Minister asking for its participation for additional investment.

The Civil Aviation Minister had assured the Chief Minister that the Ministry would invest an amount equivalent to the State's investment, Mr Paul said, and added that the Ministry would also consider the expansion facilities in all the major airports in Kerala.

Mr Paul, who is also the Chairman of Air India, said that the airlines was committed to promoting Kerala as a tourism destination.

As part of this, the company would participate in the oncoming Kerala Travel Mart in a big way and would take steps to bring in tour operators from several countries.

He hoped that the introduction of new connectivities from December 3 to Paris, New Jersey and Frankfurt from Kochi would boost the flow of tourism traffic into Kerala.

``Air India has a vital stake in building up strong relations in Kerala as 45 per cent of travellers to the Gulf region were from this State. We want to make sure that the people from Kerala have a comfortable, joyful and pleasant journey,'' the Chairman said.

As a gesture of Air India's commitment to Kerala, it has been decided to provide a free ticket to a passenger accompanying bodies of Keralites dying in the Gulf region.

Hitherto bodies and baggage of 50 kg were transported free of cost. Similarly, the company was also looking into the possibility of offering some provisions for low income group of people from the State working in the Gulf region.

However, the modalities of the scheme have to be worked out by the Kerala Government, he said.

Air India had also started discussions with HDFC Bank to offer instant inter-relief through Smart Cards for passengers who loose their baggage in transit. The passengers would be given a compensation of $50, he said.

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